The Healing Effects of Equine Therapy

Written by Journey Pure Staff

As any pet owner could tell you, animals provide us with a very special sense of love and connection, particularly in times of need. Studies have demonstrated that pet owners live longer and enjoy better health due to the calming and restorative effect of having a companion animal.

Animal therapy was built upon the healing benefits of the human-animal bond and pairs important therapeutic work like confronting trauma, increasing self-awareness, and overcoming negative patterns of thought and behavior with the positive emotional support of therapy animals. Therapy animals remind you that you are worthy and valuable, and they also teach you how to accept yourself despite your flaws, which is especially useful after an experience as alienating and traumatic as addiction.

JourneyPure is proud of offer Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) as one of its many forms of experiential treatment, which provide guests with hands-on opportunities to heal from trauma and learn about themselves outside of traditional talk therapy sessions. EAP at JourneyPure helps addicts rebuild self-esteem, connect to others in the EAP program, and heal emotional wounds through the unconditional love of the human-animal bond.

EAP participants are paired with a horse that they will care for and spend time getting to know during their stay at JourneyPure. EAP work at JourneyPure has both individual and group therapy components that will challenge you to learn new skills, build social connections with other EAP participants, and reach beyond the realm of day-to-day experiences in order to learn more about yourself.

Some of the most important benefits EAP can help you achieve include:

Higher self-confidence

Learning how to care for your horse gives you an opportunity to become a nurturer and get back in touch with the capable, giving, and altruistic side of yourself that addiction can often obscure. When you are able to start giving and receiving love again, you are one step closer to developing the kind of lasting self-confidence that can aid you in long-term sobriety.

Improved communication and social skills

As you learn how to work with the EAP team, you will be challenged in a supportive environment to verbalize your thoughts and feelings. Addiction often causes you to become disengaged from your feelings and to bottle up emotions. The EAP group setting provides you with an opportunity to start safely learning to express yourself again. Working with the group will also teach you to problem solve, collaborate, and cooperate with others, with are important social skills to work on regaining after the often isolating experience of addiction.

Lasting bonds

Being around your horse will not only provide you with a sense of love and empathy for the animal, but developing positive connections to both your horse and other EAP members can serve as the bedrock for establishing lasting connections with people in your life. Studies have shown that positive social connections are one of the biggest predictors of long-term recovery, which is why the 12-step model focuses so heavily on sharing and community building. Learning how to create lasting bonds is an important part of getting sober, and both your horse and the EAP group can serve as the bedrock for building this skill.

Stress relief

When you tend to your horse, you will have something tangible and important to focus on, which can provide relief from the worries that may be floating through your head as you begin the path of recovery. After enjoying the stress-relieving benefits of working with your horse, you will likely find yourself calmer and more capable of thinking about your life in a confident and empowering way.

Relationships based on trust

EAP is very beneficial to recovering addicts because it provides an opportunity for you to learn how to trust again. Unlike many people in your life, your horse will not have any expectations or judgements about you, and you will have the opportunity to build a healthy relationship from scratch. You will begin to see how your actions affect yourself and others around you, and as you learn how to take care of your horse and consistently show up for him/her, you will enjoy the benefits of a relationship based on mutual trust. This will help you learn not only how to trust others again, but most importantly, how to trust yourself.